Our journey to Amsterdam was, perhaps just like Amsterdam itself, a definite pain that was nonetheless worth it. We attempted to leave Nicole's mid-afternoon, however, the trains were not running at all from Lent where she lives into Nijmegen where we could catch a train to Amsterdam, due to construction at the Arnhem station. But we could only find that out by waiting at the train station until they made an announcement. So we ended up catching a bus, not really a bad alternate mode of transportation, just a little bumpier. We then got our tickets, involving a change at one station... that we accidently underjumped due to poor sign positioning and had to wait 30 minutes for the next train, at which time we did finally make it into to A'dam. The town is massive and sprawling, to understate things, rather too much to figure out under any conditions, nevermind the strains of travel in the Netherlands! Most corridors look the same, and while there are canals too "help" you locate things, there are numerous ones that are appear identical, particularly at night. You certainly can easily get around with a map, its just wandering from streetcorner to streetcorner is a time-consuming process, particularly when most roads are under construction. So amidst our initial wandering for a hostel, we checked out a few cafes, coffeeshops, and bars, while also not being able to ignore the occasional red light, street busker, or random foreign street traffic. Amsterdam (and its shoppes by extension) have a very foreign feel to them, English will often seem to be the only language being spoken, and its safe to assume most at least understand what you are saying: certainly all the staff do, blocks upon blocks inevitably get visited by tourists, even when trying to escape the "main drags." That being said, there are exciting stores every block, clusters of coffeeshops, boulevards of bars, and corners of cafes, plus numerous street vendors, hostel/hotel signs, plus sex shops as well. Amsterdam is a busy city by day, but empty by night except for certain districts. All the streets really do look the same, with confusing polysyllabic names; but while its a different world, stores are stores everywhere, pictures explian the food options, and everyone speaks at least rudimentary English. Thus, comes the comfort of your hostel/hotel, that provides your homebase/comfort zone/internet access (ideally) enabling you to stay in touch with "reality." However, our journey took even longer that that to find one in Amsterdam.
After much wandering, and "all full" hotels, we had even checked chuckling bucket shop stands for last-minute options, we finally found an overpriced but available option "just 7 minutes down the subway line" - after a little more foot-travel, we finally then hit the Central Station in order to catch our subway. After twice being told the incorrect information by the Infor booth (when we checked with passengers the trains were going other ways), we finally figured out an appropriate train to take, one of the last of the night. However, for reasons still unknown, our train skipped all of its "regular" stops, only going to its final destination Ulrecht. We realized things weren't right quite quickly, but what do you do on the wrong train, the last train, that's just not stopping, which means you definitely don't have the correct ticket? Well, we hoped for the best, and some fortuitous luck gave us a comfortable night sleep:
We walked through the mall-maze attached to the Ulrecht Centraal station, and eventually emerged in a main square, with shoppes sloping down a gentle hill beyond a rather modern extended public area. So we followed the hordes, and decided to check the first hotel we saw, a Best Western. We were told in short order that, just like Amsterdam, things were full up, even though we'd travelled a good distance away. Just as we asked what exactly we "should do," when an older couple arrived, to check out of their room. At 1:30 am we could hardly believe our luck, and the hotel employee was kind enough to overlook our deal-on-the-side, saving us a bunch of money for "an unused bed" we were promised. We ended up with a nice 4th floor view, in a 150 euro hotel for a third the price, less than even the cheapest hostel in Amsterdam, though we did the journey by train back to the city to deal with, but we would be refreshed then.
Given that it's now Sunday, and we easily found a hostel this noon-time, it should be noted that Amsterdam is not the best to approach on a Saturday night, particularly not when already held up by uncooperative trains, without some sort of internet reservation. Our entire journey would have been easier, and the comfort we are currently in, we would have been enjoying yesterday as well. But a 4th floor proch with a view after a rough travel day isn't too bad, and the bed was certainly comfortable. The train ride back to town was around 10 euro, money saved the night before accidentally. We went to the Ajax Stadium exit, in order to check out the ticket options for the game. After navigating about the enormous stadium, we found the only tickets available included a mandatory scarf and were right around $60 each. So for a moment the ceaseless battle of "two-weeks-in-India" vs. "great experience in Europe" was waged, with the prestigious Ajax football club losing, in favor of quickly finding a comfortable hostel and exploring the city further by foot. We decided to check our ideal destination, the Hotel Brian, which Nicole had stayed at previously in the month, and includes many fringe benefits like breakfast, free internet, 24/7 access, own room, etc. all for only 27 euro. Cheaper could be had, but the accoutrements more than make up for the few euro savings (lowest price = 18 - 20 euro, in large military-style rooms with 20+ beds. The free internet alone is the savings, one euro usually buys between 15 and 30 minutes at most of the A'dam coffeshops or bars. Some do have wifi (often marked in the windows) but we don't have a laptop with us.
But we're here at the Hotel Brian, and will be for one more night, leaving Tuesday morning to return to Nijmegen most likely with Nicole, though there's at least a slight chance we might stay here one more day and try one of the cheaper hostels for comparison sake. We really are leaving most of our trip details to circumstance, which creates some harrowing moments, but creates a lot of fun potential as well.
More details to come, we do have all night internet...